If you’re reading this, you’re probably running for public office, thinking about running, or working on someone’s campaign. With a worldwide pandemic upon us, the world has changed overnight, and our tactics for connecting with voters will need to adapt to more fully leverage social platforms. 

It’s likely that we may not be able to get out into the physical “field” for months, and face-to-face interactions are not going to happen nearly as frequently. Facebook is perhaps the best replacement we have for many of the types of typical campaign activities that involve in-person work. This is simply our new reality. 

The team at ActionSprout has spent the last eight years building out tools and methodologies for getting more value out of Facebook, and we’ve honed our product into a powerful communication and community-building tool for nonprofits and political campaigns. 

We are specialists. Facebook is all we do, and we go deep. With over 5 billion engagement data points processed every year, we have the most expansive view of what’s working and what isn’t of anyone working in the Facebook ecosystem. We don’t work on brands or make tools to sell things. We make Facebook work for causes and campaigns. PERIOD. 

In this guide, we will be talking specifically about tactics for candidates. Whether you're running for president or for a local school board, the same basics apply. But most of this is tailored for down-ballot efforts: state legislatures, county councils, city councils, etc. 

It’s important to get one essential thing out of the way: Facebook is a place to build community, a place to connect and grow relationships with people. It is not a one-way broadcast channel. You must be ready to participate fully and to be part of a conversation. You must be ready to relinquish total control and empower an extended team to assist you. 

Facebook is where nearly 70% of people in the U.S. gets their news, and it’s absolutely where people solidify their beliefs based on social proof on a daily basis. Yet, 65% of political candidates post to their Facebook Pages less than once a week and only 11% share something at least once a day. 

We know your time is at a premium, so here’s a summary of what you’ll learn from this document. 

  • Post to your Facebook Page at least once a day
  • Manage and respond to comments
  • Encourage interaction by volunteers
  • Use Facebook ads to engage more voters
  • Learn from engagement activity in real-time
  • Turn Facebook engagement into contactable email lists

Is everything set up correctly?

Let’s begin with the basics. It’s important to make sure that you have everything set up correctly, and that you understand the essential pieces of the Facebook puzzle. 

There are five things that you need to get started:  

  1. A Facebook login
  2. A Facebook Page
  3. A Facebook Business Manager account
  4. A Facebook ad account 
  5. An ActionSprout account

Let’s start with your Facebook Login, this is your personal account with Facebook. It must be you, a real person. You will use this to manage your Facebook Pages, ad accounts, business accounts, etc. Do not create a fake or shared login for your campaign, each person must use their personal Facebook logins as required by Facebook terms of use. 

Facebook Business Manager is the central hub that you’ll use to control who has access to the pieces we listed above. It’s also necessary for running Facebook ads that contain political or issue-based content (and Facebook casts a very broad net on what falls into those categories). It needs to manage the Facebook Page and ad accounts you will be using. This is where you can grant your team members admin access to your Facebook Page and/or ad account. This is where you will verify the identity of your organization with some form of legal documentation. 

Your Facebook Page (managed by your Business Manager account) should have its category set as Political Candidate or Politician. The country and state should be set, and if possible an address and website URL. Ideally, the name of the Page should simply be the candidate’s full name. Additionally, it’s hard to change Page names, so don’t include the position being run for in the name of the Page -- you never know what you or your candidate may be running for a few years down the line! 

Your Facebook ad account (also managed by your Business Manager account) should have a payment method added to it so you can run ads. Make sure that the person running ads has access to the ad account and is an admin on the Facebook Page in Business Manager. 

Each person who is going to be managing the Page and running Facebook ads will need to get personally verified and enable two-factor authentication. They can register for those things at http://facebook.com/id. These precautions prevent malicious entities and people who aren’t U.S. citizens from running fake political ads. This process can take up to 10 days (Facebook sends a code to you through the mail), so we recommend that you start it right away, as it is required to set up ad disclaimers. 

Speaking of which, in order to run Facebook ads, you will first need to configure ad disclaimers. This requires connecting the Facebook ad account to the Page by a verified user who has completed the personal verification process. They must then add in the disclaimer info, i.e., email, phone, and address for the campaign. This disclaimer will be stored in a searchable ad archive for 7 years. Learn more here.

An easy way to check that all of this is configured correctly is to sign in to ActionSprout and connect it to your Facebook Page. The ActionSprout dashboard will tell you at a glance if anything needs attention and give you tips and help on how to fix it. 

If you don’t have an ActionSprout account yet, you can set one up in a few minutes at actionsprout.com

Posting, Posting, Posting

Facebook is an algorithmic news feed. That is, what each person sees is personalized just for them based on what they’ve engaged with in the past. An important thing to remember is that almost nobody will visit your actual Page itself — people simply see your posts as part of their newsfeed. And not everyone who follows your Page will be shown your posts! Right now, Facebook only shows posts to roughly 5% of your followers that it thinks are most likely to engage with that particular piece of content -- so it’s almost impossible to “spam” your followers by posting too much. It also means that it’s absolutely essential to post something engaging at least once a day -- and posting 2 or 3 times each day is much better. 

If this sounds daunting, fear not! Finding enough content is a lot easier than you might think. 

Simply monitor what other Facebook Pages are posting and curate the stories that are already getting good engagement. You can easily borrow posts and add your own context to them and provide value to your community in the process. 

Spend 10 minutes every other day picking a few stories. Then schedule them to be posted over the next few days, so you have a queue of posts ready to go for the week. 

If you want to use ActionSprout for this, we have a mobile app you can use for free, and more advanced web tools priced at $25/month or $180/year. ActionSprout lets you follow over 500 issue topics, such as climate change or affordable housing, and get a feed of recommended and engaging stories on the topics you’ve selected. Our scheduling tool lets you quickly and easily select stories from the feed and schedule them out for the coming week (or longer!). 

State and county Democratic parties also have private topic feeds that are filled with content relevant to your particular locality. Contact your local party and ask for an invitation link to join. If they are not yet set up on ActionSprout, have them contact info+dems@actionsprout.com -- it’s free for them! They may also have a 20% ActionSprout discount code courtesy of StacLabs that they can pass along to you. 

When looking for content, we suggest that you use videos and images liberally. It’s easy to find and curate news and links to interesting information, but video and images really catch people’s eyes. You can share videos and images from others, or take a few moments to have the candidate take a selfie of themselves at work or record a 2-minute update video talking about an important topic or newsworthy story. Another great tactic is to get volunteers to submit videos and images about why they are supporting the campaign and share those too. Videos don’t have to be super slick to get noticed, so don’t be afraid to get out your phone and give it a whirl! And remember, virtually everyone on Facebook watches video with the volume off, so make sure you add captions. 

Be part of the conversation

We’re social creatures, and human connections drive our behavior and shape what we believe. Because Facebook is social, the comments people leave on posts will have an outsize influence on what people take away from the content. 

If someone posts a supportive comment, make sure the Page and as many supporters as possible like that comment to encourage more participation. Remember that comments are often seen by peoples’ friends, so boosting these with likes is a great way to get potential viral reach for your posts. 

If someone posts a toxic and/or disruptive comment, hide it. This removes it from public view, but the person who commented still sees their comment on the post, and won’t know that it was hidden. Because a hidden post won’t get any engagement, the person won’t get any response or reinforcement for their trolling behavior. Over time, they will hopefully give up or start engaging in a more responsible manner -- and in the meantime, the rest of your audience won’t be subjected to their noxious comments. With ActionSprout, you can even auto-hide all comments from people who are known trolls. Hiding doesn’t delete the comment so you’re still complying with regulations for public speech. 

When people post a comment that is constructive, but maybe isn’t supportive or that really does need a response, we recommend that you respond to it. Attempt to strike up a genuine conversation and stay positive and open. Don’t challenge the person directly, but rather aim to have a dialogue. Even better, invite in your digital volunteers and/or staff to chime in too. Sometimes peer pressure goes a long way in convincing someone to see a different viewpoint if the person hears from a number of different individuals! And even if the specific person isn’t convinced, having the conversation and counterpoints in the Facebook feeds can be hugely helpful for everyone who sees it.  

You can also use ActionSprout’s Voices app to coordinate a network of volunteers to help you share and respond to posts and comments. When you see a comment that needs a response, you can easily send it out to your network. They’ll be notified and can jump in and start a conversation right away! You can learn much more about Voices in this help doc

Reaching more people

Facebook ads are among the most cost-effective ways to reach a large number of voters on an ongoing basis. These ads often cost $0.01 per impression and $0.10 per engagement or less! In fact, if used correctly, a few thousand dollars a month can put you in the majority of your voters’ Facebook feeds a few times a week or more. Compare that to traditional mailing at $0.80 per impression, and it just makes sense to allocate budget to Facebook ads. 

But you have to use them in some slightly less obvious ways. 

First off, you need to be promoting a lot more of your informational posts (that is, local news stories) with small dollar amounts. For example, you might spend $20 to get a news story about affordable housing into the feeds of people in your district who care about that issue for the next 3 days. We suggest doing that every day with the most interesting or engaging post from your Page. 

You’ll want to target ads to people in important locations, such as a state legislative district or perhaps a neighborhood. We usually recommend promoting at least one curated news story a day into a neighborhood you’ll be canvassing in a week’s time. But with social distancing making doorbelling an impossibility or near-impossibility in many areas, this digital canvassing may be the only way for a candidate to reach voters in their own homes. 

Even more important than reach is the learning you can get back from Facebook ads if you run them correctly. Split your promotion into ad sets so that each ad goes to several different combinations of audiences and geographic locations. If you keep an eye on this data you could learn, for instance, whether older women in the Sunnyland neighborhood are more interested in issues around affordable housing than millennial men in the Roosevelt neighborhood. With that knowledge, you can adjust your talking points and communications across all your channels accordingly. 

This kind of testing is easy to do with ActionSprout. Once your ad account is set up with disclaimers, all you have to do is:

  • hit promote on any post as you're scheduling it in ActionSprout
  • pick an audience (or two or three)
  • select the locations you care about (perhaps a few neighborhoods) 
  • and give it a budget! 

ActionSprout will do the hard work of building out a highly optimized campaign in the Facebook ad tools. Plus, it will even give you a concise real-time ads report showing only the most important metrics. 

Big data, big insights

The data that Facebook provides about which of your posts people are engaging with and how  they’re doing it is invaluable in letting you understand how to connect with voters. 

You’ll want to keep an eye on a few key metrics that can give you a quick snapshot of what’s working and what isn’t. 

The most important metric is engagement rate. This will tell you overall whether the story you shared caught the interest of your audience or touched an emotional nerve. We consider a 6% engagement rate or higher to be good performance. A 6% engagement rate means that if 100 people saw the post, 6 interacted with it in some way (liking it, sharing it, commenting, clicking on it if it was a link, or watching it if it was a video). Ideally, we want to find the things that are at 12% or higher -- and then try to find more posts like that one to run in the future. Anything under 3% we would consider to be poor performance. 

The second thing you’re looking for is virality. Was your post something that people wanted to share with their friends? The virality score tells you what percent of the people who saw your post encountered it because someone in their network had engaged with it or shared it. We consider anything over 30% to be a success. Often virality and high engagement rates go hand in hand!

Finally, if you’re running ads you’re going to be looking at the “cost per unique click (all)” metric. This gives you a quick and easy way to monitor the cost to get somebody to stop and interact with the post. For posts of news articles, we like to see this under $0.15 and ideally under $0.10. For original content like actions and endorsements, we’d consider it good performance if the cost is under $0.50 and great performance if it’s under $0.25. 

Social Actions to build your lists

Although Facebook can be an extremely powerful tool, you naturally don’t want to put all your eggs into one basket. Therefore, you’ll want to use the engagement you’re generating on Facebook to move people to deeper action and to get permission to contact them via direct methods like email. 

The two most effective types of “social actions” on Facebook in 2020 are petitions and polls. These are great ways to move people from just liking or clicking on a post to really becoming more engaged with your mission. People who have participated in a few petitions or polls are more likely to convert into a donor or volunteer than people who have not. 

Take a stand on an issue and use a petition to let people add their name to the cause you are championing. Make it urgent, target someone or something, and explain why each and every signature will make a difference right now.

Use polls to ask people to weigh in and provide their input on important issues. Give them several options and let them see what everyone else’s responses were after they’ve weighed in. Be active in the comments on your poll. It’s a great way to show you care and are listening. 

ActionSprout has the most Facebook-friendly actions on the planet. Actions are what we’ve done and perfected over the last 8 years. People can tap and instantly complete the action without having to type in their email address or name. But since Facebook already has that information, you are automatically sent that data for every person who clicks to sign or vote. Now you’re building your email list! We also have the most progressive privacy portal in the industry, giving people full control over their data. 

Empower supporters

You’ll want to find ways to get your staff, advisory board, and volunteers to actively participate in your Facebook efforts. Here are two suggestions in how to do this: 

Create a closed Facebook group (owned by your Facebook Page) and invite them into it so they can discuss and collaborate in a safe and private environment. Make a few people captains of this group who are committed to keeping it alive and vibrant. 

Use ActionSprout’s Voices feature to coordinate a network of digital volunteers. They can jump in right away when you need a post shared, a comment responded to, a poll completed, a picture snapped, or a video recorded. 

Be authentic and build a lasting community

The most important thing you can do to maximize a campaign’s impact with Facebook is to be real and be present. Bring in as many people as possible to help curate and post. Empower volunteers to help share and start the conversations on posts. 

And most of all, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Facebook is hard. ActionSprout has real human experts who want to help. We actually respond to our helpline (and fast!), so never hesitate to reach out to us at info@actionsprout.com

About ActionSprout

Our promise: ActionSprout powers the world’s largest community of causes and civic leaders who share stories and connect people to issues that matter on Facebook.

We believe: No human is illegal, women’s rights are human rights, Black lives matter, science is real, water is life, love is love, gender is not binary, everyone deserves a fair shot, climate change is real, everyone deserves marriage equality, fair elections are important, everyone deserves an education and a living wage, healthcare is a right, and children shouldn't live in fear of getting shot.

ActionSprout stands against: Hate, bigotry, science denial, misogyny, xenophobia, government corruption, animal abuse, and people looking to divide and deceive.

We believe in people over profit, which is why we’ve made our tools very affordable. ActionSprout’s enterprise-level functionality costs just $25/mo. or $180/year for candidates, with no hidden costs or upsells. 

ActionSprout has a full-featured web application as well as a companion mobile app for iPhone or Android to use when you’re on the go. In addition, we also have a Voices app (for iPhone or Android) that you can use to keep your supporters more connected with your efforts. 

Additional resources

Have questions? Reach us at info@actionsprout.com. We're always here to help. 

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